Refugee quotas: Hungary is commanded to comply
Roughly two years after the anti-migrant wall along the Hungarian-Serbian border was constructed, the policy of Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian Prime Minister, needs to be readdressed, particularly in light of the decision made on 6th September 2017 by the European Court of Justice.
Solidarity as “the basis for European construction” is a value strongly promoted by the ECJ.
The recent decision of the European Court of Justice – “ECJ 6th Sept. 2017, Slovak Council, case C-643/15 and C-647/15” – on 6th September 2017 closed the debate over the refugee crisis at the heart of the European Union. During this debate the migrant policy developed by Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was directly addressed.
To recap, when Hungary and Slovakia were presented with the idea of migrant quotas as a provisional means of relocating the asylum seekers arriving in Greece and Italy, which was put forward by the European Council in 2015 – decision 2015/1601, Council of the EU, 22nd September 2015 – they protested this decision before the highest jurisdiction of the EU. Their pleas were, however, rejected and the provisional measures established by the EU were deemed to be necessary and proportionate. In taking this measure, the ECJ reinforced the values of solidarity and of member states taking equal responsibility, in accordance with article 80 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU). This decision made by the ECJ applies to all EU member states, and Hungary and Slovakia therefore have no choice but to comply. Unequivocally, Yves Bot, the general advocate of the ECJ reiterates the idea that solidarity is the “quintessence of what constitutes both the raison d’être and the aims of European projects” as well as the “existential value and foundation of the Union”, and that it is the first demand made of EU member states.
Budapest is relentless
Far from giving in, Budapest categorically refuses to comply with the decision made by the ECJ, and stark opposition is on the rise both within the ministerial circle and in the part of the Hungarian press that is close to the government. Péter Szijjarto, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Hungary, considers the decision to be “irresponsible”, of a “political” nature, and a “threat to the safety of the whole of Europe”. He promises that Hungary will “continue to fight against mandatory resettlement quotas”. Zsolt Bayer, the Hungarian journalist, infamous for his racist comments, expressed the rejection of the European decision with a vengeance in the pro-government daily newspaper Magyaz Idök. “At one time, western Europe created a gigantic colonial empire. The United Kingdom, France, Spain, Holland, Belgium and even Italy all had colonies. These countries ruthlessly destroyed the cultures and civilisations they found there…this colonial empire has now sent a bill to its former enslavers. But worst of all, the West has now decided to completely turn its back as the contamination and sin, for which it is to blame, seizes the EU. It’s unjust and despicable”. It is worth remembering that a few months ago the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán celebrated the fact the Hungary “had remained one of the last European regions without migrants”. In a country that considers itself as the guardian of European Christianity, this rejection is to no one’s great surprise.
Defiance: German-Hungarian and European. What future does Hungary have in the EU?
Within the EU, Hungary’s reaction to the European verdict was met with particular criticism in Germany. In an interview on 10th September 2017 by the daily Berlin newspaper Berliner Zeitung, Angela Merkel described the Hungarian refusal to conform to the decision of the ECJ as “unacceptable” and stated that it “could compromise [Hungary’s] status as a member of the Union”.
The centre-left daily German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, however alluded to the possibility of a “nuclear option” by the simultaneous agreement of infringement proceedings against Hungary and Poland. It also hinted at the eventuality of Poland exercising its veto power.
Although Viktor Orbán had recently asked the European Commission to cover half of the costs for the anti-migrant wall that he considers to be the “external border of the EU”, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, responded scathingly to his request, stating that solidarity “is not an à la carte dish”.
The Hungarian politician seems to have created a clear loss of confidence, and even defiance, among the western states. Faced with a Europe that, until now, has been patient, these last reactions now resonate as an ultimatum against Budapest.
The world on its head
Nevertheless, at a time when solidarity is presented as a founding value of the EU, a notorious new phenomenon, exposed by Franceinfo at the start of November, marks the counterpoint of European politics: attacks committed by refugees and, more generally, Ms. Merkel’s quota policy. Essentially, the workers left over from the influx of migrants to Germany who are nearing retirement, or who are already retired, have taken up residence in Hungary near Lake Balaton, as they consider Hungary to be safer than their home country.